Spears and loathing

Britney's ditched her husband and got her groove back

Some time before Britney Spears chucked what- everhisnamewas and filed for divorce, I guessed she was making a bid for freedom. It wasn't just the weight she'd lost, but also her outfits had changed in recent weeks - they suddenly had cohesion. During her marriage to Mr Britney, she'd excelled in "hurricane chic": stick your hand out and whatever the wind brings to you, you wear.

This is the awful truth of relationships: they don't make you look good. If you get really loved up you just want to get cosy and comfortable together; everything goes unironed and you no longer care what's in fashion. You are equally screwed if love starts going wrong, because you feel so wretched you seek solace in, first, alcohol or intensely refined carbohydrates, and then, elasticated waistbands. There are exceptions, but I never bother with them when I am trying to nail a point home. Hopefully, you eventually wake up and take a long, hard look in life's mirror only to emerge glorious and gorgeous, because, let's face it, you need to. We are driven by our anthropological desires.

Many years ago when I split with my then boyfriend, I rebelled by looking the best I knew how. Despite us having a history that could only be counted in months, I had started to get sartorially comfortable (although I must point out this wasn't why we split up), which is a trend I loathe in myself. The moment we broke up, I got back into all my most high-maintenance clothes, pro p er waistbands, but tons and everything. It was a surprise I didn't actually commission a corset. A work colleague told me I looked fantastic. "I'm heartbroken, though," I said. "Well, grief suits you," she said. My phone rang; it was a male colleague from across the floor. "I just wanted to tell you how hot you look," he whispered. I made a mental note never to stay in relationships for more than six months after that, for the sake of my wardrobe and my sense of self.

There is a way to tell the difference between love going well, but you've gotten lazy, and love going wrong, and you've gone completely mad. In Britney's case, her dress malaise was definitely a cry for help. The key was that her look had not morphed into a more comfortable version of her former self, but that she was dressing so desperately differently. Gone were her trademark hipster jeans (note, she was back in them the moment her divorce was announced) and tight tops. (And no, this wasn't just because she has spent the past two years pregnant.)

Instead, she got Waynetta Slob in to style her, and the result was mostly velour tracksuits (which I warned about two weeks ago) and other shapeless, hopeless garb. Her hair was once all sleek and expertly curled, and a veritable colour chart for which shades of blonde you can go, from burnt caramel to lightest Swede. After marriage, the only highlight in her coiffeur was a hairband.

Some say marriage to whateverhisnamewas allowed her to become who she really was, to explore her real, white-trash, inner-self. But that is too simplistic; not for the first time, Britney has taught us an important life lesson.